Palaeontology and Geology BSc (Hons)

Studying this Palaeontology and Geology BSc degree course will give you a rigorous training in palaeontology, enabling you to use the fossil record to understand the evolution and diversity of ancient life, from dinosaurs to microfossils.

You will be taught by lecturers from one of the largest and strongest palaeobiology research groups in the UK, and our focus on research-led teaching will provide you with exciting opportunities to carry out your own cutting-edge research projects. The rich fossil collections of our Lapworth Museum of Geology provide a unique resource that supports our teaching and research.

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This course will provide you with the skills necessary to develop a career as a professional palaeontologist engaged in research and teaching or in museum curation, or as an applied palaeontologist/biostratigrapher within the oil industry. Your core training in geology will also provide opportunities for a potential career as a geoscientist, if this is the career path you would like to take. 

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Matthew Kerr

Matthew Kerr

Palaeobiology and Palaeoenvironments student

“Birmingham offered a specialised course in Palaeobiology which was perfect for my interests, being a good blend of biology and geology - along with a good selection of field trips.”

Throughout all three years, two-thirds of your time is spent studying Earth Sciences, with the other third spent studying relevant aspects of biology. 

All first year modules are compulsory, with a level of choice in the second year and a range of optional modules available in the third year.

Firm emphasis is placed on project work, with an extended field and laboratory based project of your choice, as well as a palaeobiological dissertation.

In addition to lectures and practical classes, you can look forward to fieldwork training in palaeobiological and geological techniques. This work is undertaken both in the UK and abroad, and is assessed by means of reports and presentations. Assessment will also involve examinations, project work and class tests. Year 1 field course in Northern Ireland

Why study this course

There are plenty of reasons to study Palaeontology and Geology BSc at Birmingham:

  • Employability - Our Earth and Environmental Science graduates are highly employable with 100% in jobs or further study within six months of graduation (DLHE 2016/17)
  • 4th for Earth and Marine Sciences in The Guardian University Guide 2019
  • World top 100 for Earth and Marine Sciences in the QS World University Rankings by subject 2018
  • The Lapworth Museum of Geology – one of the oldest and finest specialist geological museums in the UK, housing more than 250,000 specimens. Reopen following a £2.7m redevelopment project, it is an invaluable study resource.
  • Accreditation - Our Earth Sciences degree programmes are accredited by the Geological Society of London, highlighting that they offer sound training for a professional career in the geosciences, and satisfy the academic requirements of Fellowship and Chartered Geologist status.
  • Fieldwork – Recent destinations have included South East Spain, the Scottish Highlands and Tenerife. The costs of travel and accommodation on all compulsory field courses will be covered by the University.

Find out why our students are glad they chose us

Modules

Year 1

Compulsory modules

Year 2

Optional modules - example optional modules may include:

Choose 40 credits from the following modules:

Year 3

Compulsory modules

Optional modules

Choose 60 credits - example optional modules may include:

 

Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods. Unless indicated otherwise, the modules listed for this programme are for students starting in 2019. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to compulsory modules after that date; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.

Fees and funding

Standard Home/EU student fees 2019-20

For UK students beginning their studies in September 2019, the University of Birmingham will charge the maximum approved tuition fee per year. The fees for your first year of study will therefore be £9,250. Visit our tuition fees page for more information.

Standard international student fees 2019-20

International fee
Fee Band (Undergraduate) Full-time
Band 3a (Laboratory) £21,180

Learn more about fees and funding

Scholarships
Learn more about our scholarships and awards

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required:
3
Typical offer:
ABB
Required subjects and grades:
A level Biology

Specified subjects excluded for entry: General Studies and Critical Thinking

Additional information:

BTEC Extended Diploma, Diploma and Subsidiary Diploma are accepted but subjects are considered on a case by case basis - contact us for further guidance.

Applicants may be eligible to be considered for the Unconditional Offer Scheme. For details see the Unconditional Offer Scheme 2018.

International students:

International Baccalaureate Diploma: 6, 5, 5 in Higher level subjects plus 32 points overall. Higher level subjects need to include the required subjects as defined for the A-level qualification, where applicable.

Standard English language requirements apply 
Learn more about international entry requirements

Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in one of our foundation pathways, which offer specially structured programmes for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on Birmingham International Academy web pages.

How to apply

Apply through UCAS at www.ucas.com
Learn more about applying

How you learn is as important as what you learn. The learning experience at Birmingham combines a wide variety of study methods extending way beyond the lecture theatre, to include extensive fieldwork, practical work and tutorials.

How you will learn

Your degree will be appraised in a mixture of ways: coursework, major projects, practical work, oral presentations, exams and continual assessment. Some modules only have an exam, others only project work. We place strong emphasis on individual project work/the research dissertation in Years 2 and 3.

Studying at degree-level is likely to be very different from your previous experience of learning and teaching at school or college. You will be expected to think, discuss and engage critically with the subject and find things out for yourself. We will enable you to make this transition to a new style of learning, and the way that you are assessed during your studies will help you develop the essential skills you need to make a success of your time at Birmingham.

Fieldwork

Getting out of the lecture theatre and into the field is an exhilarating experience. Whether you're sampling, mapping or collecting data, the subject matter really comes alive. There's no better way to learn about the natural and the built world than by being in the great outdoors.

Fieldwork is an integral part of our degree programmes. It offers you the chance to travel, work independently as well as in a group and learn valuable technical skills.

Video transcript here

Year 1

Fieldwork is an integral part of our degree programmes and many modules will have a local fieldwork component. Additionally, there is a four-day residential field course for all Geography and Environmental Science programmes in November of Year 1.

Recent destinations for geographers and environmental scientists have included Snowdonia, the Peak District, Shropshire, and the Forest of Dean. Geographers and Planners currently undertake a Europe-based residential course to Rotterdam, with a local, non-residential alternative also offered.

Year 2 and final year

At the end of semester two Single Honours students undertake a second residential field course of five or seven days.

Many of these field courses are centred in European cities, and they are more specialised and focus specifically on human or physical geography topics. Recent human geography field course destinations have included cities such as Amsterdam; Moscow; Prague; Berlin; Dublin, and Seville, whilst physical geographers have been to Evora in Portugal; Malta; Tenerife; and Bala, in Wales.

Year 2 and final year

At the end of semester two Single Honours students undertake a second residential field course of six or seven days.

Many of these field courses are centred in European cities, and they are more specialised and focus specifically on human or physical geography topics. Recent human geography field course destinations have included cities such as Amsterdam; Moscow; Prague; Berlin; Dublin, and Seville, whilst physical geographers have been to Evora in Portugal; Malta; Tenerife; and Bala, in Wales.

In Years 2 and 3 (or Years 2 and 4 for Year Abroad students) some modules involve additional fieldwork components, which are usually non-residential. Such work is especially important in biogeography, palaeoecology and hydrology where experience in field methodologies is even more essential.

For the majority of students field training is an important part of the preparation for undertaking dissertation projects in the final year. Some students decide to undertake research work overseas. This usually requires more preparation and some fund-raising. The University and the Royal Geographical Society have competitive travel scholarships for this purpose. It is sometimes possible to develop dissertation research in association with staff research projects.

Recent student research of this kind has been undertaken in Iceland, Costa Rica, Norway, the Pyrenees and in northern Italy.

We will make the necessary arrangements to accommodate students with disabilities for field courses throughout your time at Birmingham.

Find out more about fieldwork costs and funding

During your first year you will also be given a formal transition review to see how you are getting on and if there are particular areas where you need support. This is in addition to the personal tutor who is based in your school or department and can help with any academic issues you may encounter.

Your personal tutor

Our School is a close-knit community and we adopt a very personal approach. You will be assigned a personal tutor upon arrival; an academic member of staff who will support your academic progress and assist with any academic or other issues throughout your time at Birmingham.

Seminars and tutorials

Your degree will have a modular structure. In each year learning is delivered over two teaching semesters of eleven weeks and a third summer term of eight weeks for revision, examinations and progress review. Your learning will take place in a range of different settings, including lectures, small group tutorials, seminars, laboratory classes and field classes. Particular course modules in Geography may involve individual or group project work, preparing oral presentations, and library or web-based research. 

From the outset, you will be encouraged to become and independent and self-motivated learner, shaping your own intellectual development.

Lecturers and world-leading researchers

The world-leading research we do feeds directly into our undergraduate programmes, which means you will be learning from academics who are experts in their fields.

For example, Dr James Bendle, who has uncovered direct evidence that palm trees grew in Antarctica about 50 million years ago, leads a module in palaeoclimates, while Dr Dominique Moran has defined a new field enabling you to explore the geographies of incarceration. Our research is truly global taking us to all corners of the Earth from remote Antarctica to sprawling metropolises.

We are home to the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR), a pioneering facility investigating the long-term impact of climate and environmental change on woodlands.

Resources and facilities

As well as lectures, tutorials and practical classes you will have access to extensive educational facilities across the School and University including library resources, a well-equipped map room, state-of-the-art laboratory and IT facilities, and purpose-built learning spaces. You will also have a wealth of opportunities to go out into the field; gaining hands-on experience on residential courses across the UK and overseas.

We are home to the Lapworth Museum of Geology, brimming with more than 250,000 specimens some over 500 million years old. As one of the oldest specialist designated and accredited geological museums in the UK, this is an invaluable study resource.

Contact hours

In Year 1 of your Palaeontology and Geology degree you can expect an average of about 11 hours of contact time per week over the two teaching terms (autumn and spring). This will be made up of lectures, practical laboratories, and small group teaching. On top of this there will be approximately 14 days of contact on field courses.

In Year 2 you can expect an average of about 7 hours of contact time per week over the two teaching terms (autumn and spring). This will be made up of lectures, practical laboratories, and small group teaching. On top of this there will be approximately 16 days of contact on field courses.

In Year 3 you can expect between an average of about 6-9 hours of contact per week over the two teaching terms (autumn and spring) depending on optional modules chosen. On top of this there will be approximately 6 days of contact on a field course.

 

Assessment methods

At the beginning of each module, you'll be given information on how and when you'll be assessed for that particular programme of study. You'll receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done for future modules.

During your first year it is important that you have a smooth transition into University.  You will be able to talk to your tutors about this and discuss if there are particular areas where you need support. 

Our Academic Skills Centre also offers you support with your learning. The centre is a place where you can develop your mathematical, academic writing and general academic skills. It is the Centre's aim to help you to become a more effective and independent learner through the use of a range of high-quality and appropriate learning support services. These range from drop-in sessions with support with mathematics and statistics based problems provided by experienced mathematicians, to workshops on a range of topics including note talking, reading, writing and presentation skills.

Related research

By choosing to study with us you will embark on an enriching journey building a strong foundation for your professional future. Your studies will take you many places; all the time giving you invaluable real-world experience.

Where could a degree in Earth Sciences take you?

Recent graduates have found employment in a wide range of fields. Our most recent student survey showed that many students from Earth Sciences were engaged in work or study directly related to their first degree, with the remainder choosing career paths in areas outside of the subject where the transferable skills gained on the programme prove invaluable. 

Rig at dawnGeology careers are extremely diverse, with students going into a wide range of professions. Increasing numbers of our graduates are employed in environmental planning, land remediation hydrogeology and pollution control. Opportunities in some fields, notably the oil and minerals industries, vary from year to year. Other employers include the British Geological Survey (BGS), local authorities, museums, government organisations and engineering and construction companies. Other graduates decide on a career in teaching either from primary or right through to further education. Many students also go on to careers around the world in locations including Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Increasingly, a successful career in geology is helped by having a higher qualification. Nearly half of our graduates go on to further study before taking a job, either by completing a one-year MSc course or researching for a PhD.

See examples of what our graduates go on to do

colette lyle quote image

“The course provided me with the skills and knowledge needed to work within the petroleum industry.”

Colette - MSci Geology
Read more...

Hear more graduate stories

Transferable skills

You will acquire sought-after skills that will enable you to forge a career in a range of geology and geology-related industries, from mining to engineering, as well as a host of generic transferable skills. From data analysis and problem solving to communication and team-working, these transferable skills are highly valued by employers and will enhance your employability in the competitive job market.

Careers Network

Preparation for your career should be one of the first things you think about as you start university. Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our Careers Network can help you achieve your goal. 

Our unique careers guidance service is tailored to your academic subject area. Our team source exclusive work experience opportunities to help you stand out amongst the competition, with mentoring, global internships and placements available to you. Once you have a career in your sights, one-to-one support with CV's and job applications will help give you the edge. In addition, our employer-endorsed award-winning Personal Skills Award (PSA) recognises your extra-curricular activities, and provides an accredited employability programme designed to improve your career prospects.

Professional accreditation